Security source: Cabinet to vote on each phase of pullout plan

23/05/2004 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will present his revised, phased, disengagement plan to the cabinet for a vote next week. At a meeting with security chiefs Sunday morning, Sharon said that he was not requesting their approval for the plan. „I have already decided,” he told them. According to senior security sources, the plan will be broken up into stages with several months separating each withdrawal. The plan, formulated by National Security Advisor Giora Eiland, is comprised of four phases of withdrawal. In the first phase, the Gaza Strip settlements of Netzarim, Kfar Darom, and Morag will be evacuated. These are three isolated settlements, and a withdrawal from them will result in a shorter line of contact between the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinians, allowing the IDF to provide more security for other settlements. In the second stage of the plan, Israel will withdraw from the northern West Bank, and will evacuate four settlements – Ganim, Kadim, Homesh and Sa-Nur. The withdrawal will create contiguity of Palestinian territory in the northern West Bank. In the third phase of the plan, Israel will withdraw from Gush Katif, in the Gaza Strip, and in the final stage of the plan, Israel will evacuate the settlements of Nisanit, Alei Sinai, and Dugit, in the northern Gaza Strip. According to the plan, Israel will destroy houses in settlements that will be evacuated, aside from public buildings and infrastructure, ahead of the withdrawal. The government will vote next week on the plan in its entirety, and separate votes will be held prior to each phase of the plan. The meeting between Sharon and top security officials was held in light of opposition expressed by a number of the officials to the phased plan, which they claim may encourage terror between each phase. Major General Amos Gilad (res.), who heads the Defense Ministry’s political-security branch, expressed reservations to the plan. According to sources, Gilad said that the four stages of the withdrawal encourage Palestinians opposed to the plan to escalate terror, in an effort to present the withdrawal as an expulsion of Israel from Gaza, and in an attempt to thwart the plan.

Sharon silenced Gilad, and told those present that, „I didn’t come here to ask you if you support the plan. I’ve already decided. This is the plan. I am requesting that you recommend how to better implement the plan from a security standpoint.” At the meeting, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz expressed support for Sharon’s position, and said that he still believes that disengagement is good for Israel, from the economic, security, and strategic standpoints. „The plan should be implemented, while taking into account the results of the Likud referendum,” Mofaz said. BPI.